Next, it’s the turn of Bildad the Shuhite to reply (maybe he should be called Bildad the Zealot - his is a direct accusation that Job’s troubles are the result of his sin, vv.4, 13, 20). It represents a kind of theology that suggests that if we do wrong, God will punish us – and that therefore, if we suffer any form of bad news, it must be God punishing us because we did something wrong. Job, again (see last time and chapter 6.4), seems to agree with the perspective of his companion (chapter 9.1a), although we’ve already seen that he’s uncertain – for good reason – of what that sin might have been (see chapter 6.30, for example).
We know from the opening chapters of the book that Bildad is incorrect in his assertion, and we should always shy away from this kind of assumption when trying to get alongside those in trouble. Even if we think the root problem may be sin – but fail to voice it – it may colour our response. Most of the time, we’re very unlikely to know the full circumstances of someone’s troubles, and even if sin is part of the problem, pointing it out doesn’t always help (admittedly, there are times when we are to address sin, for example in Matthew 18 – but the circumstances there are very different).
I remember the testimony of a former tutor of mine, who worked with prison inmates and illegal immigrants (often, these two descriptions applied to one and the same person). He knew that those he was ministering amongst were likely to have had, or would gain, a criminal record – but he maintained that that was an issue for the courts to deal with, not him. For the sake of being a minister of the gospel, he considered himself ignorant of and unbound by anything that the justice process might try to throw at these people; his job was to show them Jesus and to love them, regardless.
Job’s friends are bothered by the fact that they perceive him to have sinned; that’s a problem that they feel they need to solve. However, we can leave that to those who need to worry about it (God and/or the courts) and concentrate on bringing the love of God to those we meet in need. There are some things we don’t need to concern ourselves with.
Father God, thank you that you love us more than we can know. Thank you that you dealt with my sin – and that of the world – at Calvary. Amen.